A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is one of the most misunderstood parts of property division following a divorce. Most people think that their divorce decree alone is enough to grant access to their share of their ex-spouse's pension or retirement plan, but it isn't. For that, you need a QDRO.
In addition, you need to make sure that the QDRO is obtained and handled promptly. A delay can really hurt you in certain situations, including:
1. Your ex-spouse's surprise retirement
It's not unheard of for a spouse to suddenly throw in the towel at work and decide, post-divorce, that he or she would rather relax than work. As long as your QDRO is filed, you can be certain to get your share of his or her retirement plan or pension. If it isn't there, however, the plan administrator won't be aware of the limitations on your spouse's funds -- which means you can be deprived of what you are due. That could lead you back into another court battle as you try to obtain the money directly from your ex.
2. Your ex-spouse suddenly drains the account
It's also not unheard of for an embittered ex-spouse to suddenly realize that he or she can drain a retirement account via a loan or outright liquidation and deprive you of your share. For some ex-spouses, even taking a financial loss on their investment is worth the cost -- as long as their former husband or wife gets nothing.
These aren't the only potential problems that you can encounter if you delay the process of obtaining a QDRO -- and any delay is potentially costly. Don't let yourself be put at a disadvantage. Make certain that you seek experienced advice about enforcing your rights after a divorce.